Why Omni-channel is the “MUST HAVE” channel for today’s consumers.

Colin_Williams_blogheaderAfter numerous years performing a task (it can be anything from a daily job to fatherhood), you often reach the point of preaching (or maybe it’s just me): “In my day…” or “we didn’t do things like that” and so on… But the rate of change in business driven by information technology (IT) today makes time frames as short as a year ago seem like the “good old days”.

Last weekend was opened by “Black Friday”, a social season that’s skipped across to the UK in pretty much a year to mirror one of the largest retail trading windows in the US – “Thanksgiving”. The Thanksgiving weekend stateside unlocked a retail extravaganza of below bargain prices and frenzied shopping at a level rarely seen in the UK outside of the few weeks that precede Christmas. Even though we don’t celebrate “Thanksgiving” we now have our own Black Friday price crash and shopping madness that I suspect will be here for the indefinite future.  So where I hear you ask is the IT link, can IT really be the silver bullet to retail success in a manic market?  Not in isolation as people buying from people, served by people, engaging with people is still the richest emotional experience, but with the dawn of Omni-channel as an essential go-to-market strategy, IT genuinely is the “silver bullet”.

Picture the average UK shopper last weekend (Black Friday weekend):

  • The UK news media started to stoke the fire of “Black Friday” days earlier advertising the potential for once in a lifetime deals and prices.
  • Consumers via the internet researched current prices and specifications of products of interest.
  • Those consumers keen on bargains but without the crush were waiting keenly at 00.00am (and 1 second) on Friday morning to place the first online orders at the Black Friday price.
  • Many web sites couldn’t cope creating a situation that reinforces the importance of robust IT systems potentially using cloud computing to allow “burst” or on-demand scaling with application delivery controllers that shares workloads across both local and global systems.
  • As the online trading carried on furiously through the early morning, the retail high street front doors opened and stampedes ensued for many who had researched online, but wanted to visit the store in person (as much for the emotional and tactile shopping experience).
  • And as the tills rang and many left those frantic stores bargains in hand, fleets of delivery vehicles were then despatched to deliver both online orders and in-store orders in a manner most convenient to the purchaser.

Pretty busy…

A quick comparison with the “good old days” and using a similar example:

  • The consumer would visit the store, research in store and buy in store (or visit multiple stores until the price or “offer” was right); or research online, buy online; or research online, pick in store; and for both delivery to a location that suits at a time that suits.

Dynamic, highly scalable processing systems, with the capability to burst into on demand resources at peak times, balanced across the globe by high performance, application-aware networks with secure application delivery control, must surely be the only template that can deliver repeated success in this “Black Friday” influenced digital economy. That’s why IT delivered well is key to Omni-channel success (in fact retail success in general). As Europe’s leading user enablement IT infrastructure systems integrator, Computacenter plays a major role in this arena, ensuring time is not just money, but equally ultimate customer satisfaction.

Omni-channel, underpinned by the effective amalgam of IT and human service delivery delivers the best of all of the above. The consumer “Omni-channel” engagement mode (“my product, in my time, my way”) is fast becoming the norm for consumers ever-present today, with few memories of the “good old days”.  Buy online/collect in store, research online/collect in-store, browse in-store/buy online – “my way”.

Without Omni-channel the only channel available to the consumer is “your channel”, the channel(s) presented by the retailer. However in today’s personalised digital economy retailers may find if they don’t allow the buyer to engage and interact via “their” channel, they may choose not to transact via the retailer at all.  A simple to use, effective online presence is now essential, but alongside UC-enabled customer contact centres, high street-based outlets with engaging staff, customer WIFI, digital signage for rich media advertising and back-end systems that deliver a single customer data view, it’s easy to see how Omni-channel that blends all is quickly becoming the king of the castle.

Until next time.

Colin W

Twitter: colinwccuk

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About Colin Williams

Colin is Computacenter's Practice Leader for Networking, Visual Collaboration & Security @colinwccuk

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